INFANTE TRIAL | Case resumes this morning with more testimony

WARREN — The Ralph Infante corruption trial is about to resume this morning in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court following three days of testimony last week.

The first witness this morning is Steve Papalas, former longtime Niles councilman, who prosecutors say contacted state auditors asking for an audit several years ago that brought investigators into Niles. The investigation led to charges against a former Niles treasurer's employee for theft and the charges Infante now faces.

As a parade of witnesses testified last week, adding names, faces and details to the lengthy legal documents filed by special prosecutors earlier in the case.

Infante, 63, is indicted on 41 criminal charges involving his 24 year as Niles mayor. Testimony is expected to continue through at least this Wednesday.

Though he has not testified yet, prosecutors in opening statements on Tuesday identified city worker Scott Shaffer as the person who, prosecutors say, provided Infante with a big-screen TV and an air conditioning unit at Infante’s former bar in exchange for a job promotion for his girlfriend.

The person identified in court documents before the trial as “John Doe 3,” who prosecutors say gave infante cash twice to hire his sons to jobs with the city was identified as Gabriel Marchionte, who testified Friday.

A city employee prosecutors identified as a John Doe in court documents was identified as former city employee Terry Clay. Clay testified that he cut down trees to benefit Infante in exchange for Infante hiring Clay’s friend.

Clay died April 21, but his testimony came by way of a video deposition Clay gave in March. Attorneys for the prosecution and defense and Judge Patricia Cosgrove were present for the testimony. Clay, 71, was terminally ill with cancer at the time.

Altogether, prosecutors allege, Infante accepted more than $10,000 for giving jobs to people. Some John Does remain unidentified.

Though Dan Kasaris, one of the special prosecutors in the case, has alluded to city employees who gave cash, sometimes referred to as “homage payments,” to Infante, no witness of that type has testified so far.

There has been testimony from a state auditor’s employee regarding $103,605 of “unaccounted for” cash that went into the Infantes’ bank accounts from 2007 to 2014.

But there’s been no testimony yet regarding allegations that Infante earned thousands of dollars illegally by operating football-related “block pools” at his former club, ITAM #39 in McKinley Heights.

Infante is also accused of other gambling offenses and 16 counts of tampering with records that accuse him of failing to report gambling income, bribes and gifts.

The most serious single charge is one accusing Infante of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity during his time as Niles mayor from 1992 to 2015.

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